Westminster today – live updates: Theresa May to update MPs on Russia spy attack amid claims it amounts to 'state-sponsored attempted murder'


Theresa May will update MPs on the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia amid warnings from a senior Tory MP that the incident amounted to “state-sponsored attempted murder”.

Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat said he would be surprised if Ms May – who is chairing high-level talks on the Salisbury nerve agent attack today – did not blame the Kremlin.

MPs also won an urgent question over claims of bullying against Speaker John Bercow, who is facing a possible challenge to his authority from rivals within his own party. He refutes the allegations.

Labour has been plunged into fresh conflict over separate bullying allegations against shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams, who issued a furious statement denying the claims and accusing unnamed figures in Jeremy Corbyn’s office of abusive behaviour.

It comes after Momentum’s Jon Lansman pulled out of the competition to succeed Iain McNicol as Labour General Secretary, in a race that has divided the left of the party.

See below for live updates

Live Updates

9 mins ago
18 mins ago

Prime Minister Theresa May will make a statement to MPs about the nerve agent attack on ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia at around 4.30pm.

23 mins ago
25 mins ago

Controversial plans to force people to prove their age before watching pornography online have been delayed by the Government.
Ministers had long been hoping to introduce age checks to ensure that only over-18s can watch adult content. Those plans were due to go into force this April, and would see people who didn’t properly check who was viewing their sites charged up to £250,000.
Full story here:

39 mins ago

Downing Street also backed the handling of the Salisbury incident by chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies and Public Health England, after criticism over delays in warning customers to wash their possessions to avoid traces of nerve agent.

The PM’s spokesman said: “She explained that they only received the latest piece of scientific analysis on Saturday and they put in place an information programme making sure they had a website ready so that the public were able to access all the information they needed early on Sunday morning.”

Here’s our story:

59 mins ago

A “millennial” railcard is going on sale nationwide, entitling travellers aged between 26 and 30 to one-third off train tickets — but only if they are among the first 10,000 to apply.
The Independent estimates five million British people are eligible for the 26-30 Railcard, which means there is only one for every 500 people in the 26-30 cohort. ​ 
Read our exclusive story here:

1 hour ago

A no-deal Brexit would cost companies in the UK and the EU £58bn a year, with Britain’s financial services sector taking the biggest hit, according to new research.

1 hour ago

Downing Street has said it does not recognise the reports that the Cabinet was split over the response to Russian spy attack.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “You have seen words from the PM, Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary and they are very clear that this is an ongoing investigation, that it is important that we allow the police to get on with their work, that we gather all the evidence and if we get to a position when we are able to attribute this attack then we will do so and the Government will deliver an appropriate response.”

1 hour ago

Philip Hammond has refused a plea by the widow of murdered Alexander Litvinenko for the Tories to pay back more than £820,000 donated by Russian oligarchs, insisting the cash is legitimate.
​Story here:

1 hour ago

Interesting polling here from Survation, showing Labour has risen to 44% while the Tories have fallen to 37%.

2 hours ago

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable has denied suggesting that Brexit supporters are racist after he delivered a speech to his party’s spring conference attacking white nostalgia.

Sir Vince faced criticism for saying those who backed Brexit were “driven by a nostalgia for a world where passports were blue, faces were white, and the map was coloured imperial pink”.

Conservative MPs said the remarks were “unfair” and demanded he apologise.

Sir Vince told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he “didn’t suggest that at all” but insisted that “nostalgia for that world” was a factor in how people had voted.

“One of the factors was indeed nostalgia,” he said. “Why else has so much fuss been made about the change in the colour of the passport?”

He said one of the most effective pieces of “propaganda” during the referendum had been an advertisement unveiled by then Ukip leader Nigel Farage showing a queue of non-white people with “breaking point” written in large letters.

2 hours ago

Labour politicians could be banned from appearing on the Russian-backed TV station RT in light of the nerve agent attack on the former MI6 spy Sergei Skripal.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said that “discussion” would happen in the party because of what he said was a “change in coverage” on the channel since the poisoning.
​More here:

2 hours ago

The public will be urged by the Government to suggest tax changes to curb plastic pollution, amid growing criticism that ministers are dragging their heels.
A “call for evidence” on how tax incentives could cut the amount of single-use plastics – such as cutlery, foam trays and coffee cups – that end up littering the land and poisoning the seas will be launched.
Philip Hammond is expected to announce the call in the Spring Statement tomorrow.
Story here:

2 hours ago

Here’s the order paper for later today in the Commons, although the real drama will come if the Speaker decided to grant urgent questions on bullying allegations in Parliament, or the poisoning of Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. 

2 hours ago

Several MPs have come out to defend Debbie Abrahams, who has accused Jeremy Corbyn’s office of bullying after it announced she had “stood down” from her role as shadow work and pensions secretary over a “workplace issue”.

3 hours ago

David Davis has not visited Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland since September 2016, and Boris Johnson has not visited the border since he became Foreign Secretary in July 2016, MPs have discovered.

Labour’s Conor McGinn and Wes Streeting uncovered the information through a series of written parliamentary questions, which will raise questions on the Government’s approach to the Irish border issue after Brexit.

It comes after Boris Johnson got into hot water over a leaked to Theresa May, where he claimed “it is wrong to see the task as maintaining ‘no border'” on the island of Ireland after Brexit.

Mr McGinn, a supporter of the pro-EU Open Britain campaign, said: “It is beyond belief that David Davis hasn’t even bothered to visit Northern Ireland since September 2016 given how vital the issue of the border is to the whole Brexit process.

“The serious point here is that the Government keeps insisting there’ll be no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland, despite their reckless decision to drag the UK out of the Single Market and the Customs Union.

“But how can we take them at their word when the minister responsible for delivering Brexit has apparently visited Northern Ireland just once since he took on the job over 18 months ago, and has apparently never even visited the border?”

3 hours ago

Labour’s general secretary should not be elected by the membership as it could run the risk of establishing an alternative power base in the party, according to a prominent ally of Jeremy Corbyn. 
Chris Williamson waded into the row over who should succeed Iain McNicol as general secretary, which has exposed fault lines on the left of the party.
Story here:

3 hours ago

Theresa May is in danger of damaging the UK’s reputation because her pledge to create a “global Britain” after Brexit is merely a slogan, MPs warned today.
Ministers are unable to explain what is meant by the Prime Minister’s phrase for maintaining the UK’s international prowess outside the EU, the highly critical report said.
​Story here:

3 hours ago

Another story driving the day today is alleged bullying at the top of the Labour Party, ​after a shadow cabinet minister accused members of Jeremy Corbyn’s staff of “aggressive, intimidating and wholly unprofessional” behaviour.
Debbie Abrahams, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said her experience highlighted “a bullying culture of the worst kind”, adding that she would be making a formal complaint to party officials and parliamentary authorities.
Story here: 

4 hours ago

The attack on Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia is “looking awfully like it was state-sponsored attempted murder”, the chairman of the influential Foreign Affairs committee has said.

Tom Tugendhat said he would be surprised if Theresa May, who is chairing high-level talks on the Salisbury nerve agent attack, did not blame the Kremlin.

He told Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s a bit too early to be absolutely certain of that but we are expecting to see the Prime Minister make an announcement soon.

“And, frankly, I would be surprised if she did not point the finger at the Kremlin.”

Mr Tugendhat warned that football fans travelling to Russia for the World Cup may be at risk of harm if tensions escalate between London and Moscow.

He said: “We do need to be very, very careful for British fans who are travelling there that they are not in any way caught up in the politics of this.

“And, I’m afraid the danger of Russia responding to British fans for actions taken by their government is all too real.”

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